Board celebrates year of progressive changes |

Board celebrates year of progressive changes

This month, I ended my year as the chair of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and turned the gavel over to Supervisor Barbara Green. The year 2001 brought many challenges to our community, but we met them and our accomplishments are making history. I’d like to share with you some of the successes of 2001, made possible by only by the concerted effort of Nevada County’s public employees, volunteers and community leaders.

In a year loaded with bad financial news for the rest of the state, Nevada County’s general reserves have increased to more than $6 million, up from less than $1 million just three years ago. We saved $2.4 million by refunding long-term debt. We have begun to work out the Wildwood Estates/Mello Roos Bond disaster, and these properties are at long last generating revenues for the county. Most important, the Board of Supervisors reformed the county’s budget process to bring it in on time and balanced, helping us build up the $6 million reserve.

Public safety came to the forefront locally with the Jan. 10 shooting tragedies and increased with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. We made major new investments in law enforcement in 2001, approving a 28 percent pay raise for our deputy sheriffs to help us attract and retain top-quality officers in Nevada County. We studied security needs in all our county buildings and instituted new security measures to ensure the safety of our employees and customers. We also continued to support the visionary work of the Fire Safe Council, including supporting its neighborhood safety-planning activities.

One of my personal priorities was finding extra funding for our Behavioral Health Department, which was devastated by the January 2001 violence. Thanks to the efforts of a lot of people, we secured $400,000 from the Legislature to treat patients with dual diagnoses and drug problems. Our new director of Behavioral Health, Robert Erickson, has rebuilt this vitally important department and continues to bring new and creative approaches to his challenging job.

Delivering high-quality public services day-to-day helps stop crises before they occur, and Nevada County is making a name for itself in innovation and improved service. Our Forensic Task Force, which coordinates activities between the Sheriff’s Department and local human services agencies, was the only such program in the state to receive commendation for its innovative program. Nevada County’s Child Support Services were rated top in the state last year. And, under the leadership of our Information Services department, we have been selected to be a pilot county to coordinate cutting-edge “e-government” programs with state government. The payoff: faster, cheaper and more efficient services, and statewide kudos for rural Nevada County. Our state fair exhibit even won a medal in 2001!

As the economy slowed, the board renewed its commitment to economic development and promoting local businesses. As a farmer, I am particularly proud that we gave agricultural businesses a stronger voice in future planning through an improved Agricultural Advisory Commission and more sensible regulations. Nevada County’s farms and ranches contribute millions of dollars to the local economy and are a priceless part of our rural quality of life. Profitable farms and ranches are also one of the most effective barriers to excess development and sprawl so protecting agriculture protects our county in more ways than one.

The board also strengthened public input in county decision-making. We voted to put Natural Heritage 2020 on the ballot for voter approval, giving the people the final say on this issue. We relied more than ever on the expertise of the county’s numerous advisory committees and held town hall-style meetings with the Airport Commission and the Agricultural Advisory Commission. Right now, the board is acting on the advice of our affordable-housing task force. Through NH 2020, we’ve held dozens of meetings attracting hundreds of people who told us how they want to plan for growth and protect the county’s natural resources.

In fact, a lot of the credit for the accomplishments of 2001 goes to you – the public. For instance, the Agricultural Advisory Committee is charged with helping protect Nevada County agriculture. Other examples include partnerships with the Chambers of Commerce to promote tourism, community health and counseling agencies, neighborhood associations and our many nonprofit organizations. And keeping with these high-tech times, we’re now posting all Board of Supervisors documents on-line (see

Another 2001 milestone was our investment in a professional advocate to lobby for money and services at the state level. Just a few weeks ago, the Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive legislative strategy covering a broad range of issues, including health care, public safety and transportation.

For the first time, Nevada County will have the resources it needs to defend itself from state budget cuts.

The successes of 2001 have prepared Nevada County for the challenges of the coming year. Our community has stood together through some very hard times, and I know our community’s spirit will withstand others. I offer my heartiest congratulations to Chair Barbara Green and wish her luck as she guides our county through the year ahead!

Nevada County Supervisor Elizabeth Martin represents the 4th District , which includes Penn Valley and other areas west of Grass Valley.

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